Let’s look at some numbers just to get a sense of COVID-19’s possible effects. This is not a prediction or an attempt to find precise numbers. Just something to wrap your mind around.
United States population: 329,000,000 (US census)
Number of deaths in 2017: 2,814,000 (CDC)
Deaths from influenza and pneumonia: 55,672 (CDC)
Cases of influenza: 9,300,000 to 45,000,000 (CDC)
That’s a wide uncertainty, no doubt because not everyone who has influenza goes to the doctor, much less is tested.
The numbers of cases of influenza are kept down by vaccinations and immunity in people who have had a similar strain of influenza in the past. COVID-19 has no such mitigating factors, which is why limiting people’s movement becomes important.
Don’t bother to try to make the numbers of deaths from influenza and pneumonia fit neatly with the cases of influenza. My purpose in this post is to provide a general sense of how COVID-19 might affect the United States and give some numbers for you to make sense of.
Right now, the death rate for influenza is generally agreed to be about 0.1%. For COVID-19, it’s about 2%.
If there are as many cases of COVID-19 as there are of influenza, that gives 186,000 to 900,000 deaths. That’s compared to 56,000 for influenza. Heart disease kills about 650,000 people a year, cancer 600,000 (CDC). And, without a vaccine or immunity from earlier infections, those numbers could be larger.